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The Heights of Europeans Since 1750: A New Source For European Economic History


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  • Roderick Floud
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    Economic and social historians have traditionally been concerned to measure changes in the income and welfare of populations in the past.Until recently, however, they have not recognized that anthropometric data, such as evidence on the average height achieved by a population at a particular age, provide sensitive indicators of the average nutritional status of that population. Records of conscription into the armies of eleven European countries betweeen 1761 and 1975 provide 114 observations of mean height. Using 614 observations, the paper explores the relationship between mean height and other indicators of health and welfare, in particular the level of GDP per capita and the level of infant mortality. Western European heights are shown to have responded systematically over the past hundred years to changes in income and disease, just as heights in the modern world respond to similar changes today. Average height is powerful evidence of the nature and extent of economic development.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1318.

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    Date of creation: Apr 1984
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    Publication status: published as Floud, Roderick. "Wirtschaftliche und Soziale Einflusse auf der Korhergrossen von Eurohaern seit 1750," Jahrbuch fur Wirtschaftsgeschichte, No. II, 1985, pp. 93-118. Translated by B. Feldmann.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1318

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    Cited by:
    1. Roderick Floud & Kenneth W. Wachter & Annabel Gregory, 1985. "The Physical State of the British Working Class, 1870-1914: Evidence from Army Recruits," NBER Working Papers 1661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Howard Bodenhorn & Timothy W. Guinnane & Thomas A. Mroz, 2013. "Problems of Sample-selection Bias in the Historical Heights Literature: A Theoretical and Econometric Analysis," Working Papers 1023, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    3. Howard Bodenhorn & Timothy Guinnane & Thomas Mroz, 2014. "Caveat Lector: Sample Selection in Historical Heights and the Interpretation of Early Industrializing Economies," NBER Working Papers 19955, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. de la Croix, David & Licandro, Omar, 2007. "‘The Child is Father of the Man:’ Implications for the Demographic Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers 6493, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Nicholas Crafts, 1997. "Some dimensions of the 'quality of life' during the British industrial revolution," Economic History Working Papers 20349, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    6. Schneider, Ryan, 1996. "Historical note on height and parental consumption decisions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 279-283, February.
    7. Richard H. Steckel, 1992. "Stature and Living Standards in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 265-310 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. David de la Croix & Omar Licandro, 2008. "The Child is Father of the Man: by Implications for the Demographic Transition," Working Papers 2008-04, FEDEA.
    9. Nicholas, S. & Steckel, R., 1992. "Tall But Poor : Nutrition, Health and Living Standards in Pre-Famine Ireland," Papers 92-19, New South Wales - School of Economics.


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